ACC Football: Wake Forest 28, North Carolina 27
Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 8, 2012
WINSTON-SALEM- Tanner Price didn’t panic, even with Wake Forest pinned deep in its own end and trailing late in its ACC opener. Instead, Price confidently led the offense downfield to stun instate rival North Carolina.
Price scored on a 1-yard sneak with 2:09 left Saturday, capping a 93-yard drive that helped the Demon Deacons rally past the Tar Heels 28-27.
A week after struggling against lower-division Liberty, the Demon Deacons (2-0, 1-0) changed the early-season vibe around their team with this win – particularly by regrouping after sputtering most of the second half.
“I can’t really describe it,” Price said. “It’s an unreal feeling, and it’s so great to get a win like that against a rival team at home especially after a week we had like last week. People were questioning our team. But it’s a great win.”
Price threw for a career-high 327 yards and ran for two scores, the second capping the 11-play drive that began at Wake Forest’s own 7-yard line with 6:36 left.
Bryn Renner had two final chances to bring back the Tar Heels (1-1, 0-1), but he threw a fourth-down interception with 1:25 left that let the Demon Deacons melt most of the clock. He got the ball back at his own 1 with 17 seconds and no timeouts, but reached only the 40 before his final desperation heave was knocked away.
Coach Jim Grobe had said this week his players were disappointed by their performance against Liberty and he didn’t want them to get too down on themselves. The Demon Deacons didn’t help themselves much by squandering a 21-14 halftime lead and managing 35 yards in the third quarter. But their revamped offensive line protected well enough for Price, especially late.
“We were probably trying to have Tanner sit too long in the pocket for a while,” Grobe said. “When we got away from that and started getting off quicker throws, that really seemed to help him. But we had a bunch of guys step up and make plays in that drive. I couldn’t be more proud of them. … We took our lumps for about a quarter and a half, but when it counted then went down and got the job done.”
Price’s top target – receiver Michael Campanaro – had his way with the Tar Heels’ secondary all afternoon. Campanaro finished with career-best totals of 13 catches for 164 yards.
“The guys were fully confident that we were going to come out and win this game,” Campanaro said. “You could tell it on everyone’s face, and Coach Grobe did a great job of getting us ready. It seems like he’s got a master plan behind everything, and we rallied behind him.”
UNC managed just one sack and didn’t pressure Price much on the last drive.
“It was hard trying to beat double-teams,” defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said. “They had a plan, they executed the plan very well and that was to keep us off of the quarterback.”
UNC played without starting tailback Gio Bernard, who suffered a minor knee injury in last week’s 62-0 opening win against Elon. Bernard said Monday he’d be ready, but new coach Larry Fedora – who said he expected Bernard would play – said he held Bernard out because the sophomore didn’t feel right during pre-game warm-ups.
Still, North Carolina got plenty of production from fill-in starter A.J. Blue (106 yards and a touchdown) and Romar Morris (70 yards), whose 4-yard touchdown run in the third tied the game at 21.
But the Tar Heels blew two chances to really take control. First, they settled for a short field goal from Casey Barth after Tim Scott’s interception gave the Tar Heels a first-and-goal from the 8. Then they settled for another kick from Barth after driving to the Wake Forest 13 early in the fourth quarter.
Then came two ineffective drives, setting up the Demon Deacons’ final push.
“Just because you get the ball down there doesn’t mean it’s going to go in,” Fedora said. “You’ve got to make it go in. When you get in the score zone, there’s got to be something that comes on in your mind. You can’t be turned down. You’ve got to get the ball in the end zone.”
The game was delayed for 75 minutes due to lightning during a storm that rolled in about 30 minutes before kickoff.